In Fay Weldon’s IND AFF, the setting of the story essential to conveying the theme about how just stopping to think for a moment in time can lead one to make decisions or come to conclusions that can be life-changing. While in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the narrator and her professor/lover are at the spot where Princip shot and assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, ultimately instigating World War I. Analyzing the setting of the assassination and what was going through Princip’s mind as well as being in the setting herself, leads the narrator to come to her own conclusion about her love life. In IND AFF, Weldon’s parallel development of the setting both in Princip’s time as well as in the narrator’s time is inextricably linked to expressing the idea of how stopping to think for a moment in time can ultimately result in life-altering conclusions.
From the very beginning it is evident that Weldon’s use of setting is important to better understanding the atmosphere of the story. The narrator starts off by commenting that, “This is a sad story. It has to be. It rained in Sarajevo, and we expected fine weather,” (201). This passage is interesting and important for a couple of reasons. The fact that the narrator describes the story as “sad” is ironic since although a break-up may seem sad, it is actually a moment of enlightenment for the young student who later asks herself, “What was I doing with a man with thinning hair?” (206). The rain in the setting symbolizes not only the gloom in the atmosphere but also the change that is going to come. The persistent rain throughout the vacation washes away the affair that the student and professor once shared. The images of it “raining forever” and “black clouds” come up more throughout the story. In the beginning the narrator sees the rain as a bad since it is putting a damper on the vacation and impedes Peter from seeing Princip’s footprints well. Eventually, however, the narrator admits that, “that was how I fell out of love with my professor, in Sarajevo, a city to which I am grateful to this day, though I never got to see very much of it, because of the rain,” (206). The reader can conclude that if the weather had been any different (sunny for example), the couple would have gone about their site-seeing and the student would not have come to the conclusion that when she said, “‘I love you’…automatically, [she] was finally aware of how much [she] lied,” (206).
Also important to conveying the theme is how Weldon develops the setting during the student’s time and Princip’s time in a parallel way in order to compare the two events. Both the assassination and the break-up happen in Sarajevo, Bosnia during the summer. Both events involve a single person making a decision that will affect others; Princip’s assassination of Ferdinand leads to WWI and the student’s realization that she does not love Peter leads to the termination of their relationship). Interestingly and humorously at the same time, for both events it is important to remember not to “forget his wife: everyone forgets his wife,” (201). This of course, refers to the archduchess who was also assassinated as well as Peter’s wife, on whom “it was raining..too, back in Cambridge,” (202). Another similarity that connects Princip and the student is their age; Princip was nineteen when he assassinates Ferdinand and the student is also young when she breaks up with the professor. One final connection refers back to the title of the story; the student thought that she had an inordinate affection for Peter while Princip has an “inordinate affection fro his country,” (206). Ultimately, the act of analyzing Princip’s footsteps and actions helps the student come to her own conclusion about her relationship with Peter. Peter was having difficulty seeing the footprints and kept complaining but to the student, “they were clear enough to me,” (203). When discussing the assassination at the restaurant with Peter, the student feels she has to hold back for fear of being, “outflanked I debated the point,” (203). The student eventually realizes that she is not in love with her professor and decides to leave.
Had it not been for Weldon’s development of the setting at the beginning of and throughout the story, the message of the need to sometimes stop and just realize what is going on, would not have been conveyed. Weldon’s use of Sarajevo, its historical context and Princip’s interesting connection to the student ultimately leads to the student coming to an epiphany of her own. As the narrator looks back at her summer in Sarajevo, the “wisdom of [her] intent” is confirmed because she realizes she made the right choice. Not only does the narrator reflect on her own decision that day but she also concludes by offering her enlightened thoughts on Princip by saying that “If only he’d hung on a bit, there in Sarajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses. People do, sometimes quite quickly,” (207).